Jennifer Makumbi Nansubuga and Okwiri Odour were the featured guests at Literary Crossroads hosted at the Goethe Institut in Nairobi on June 29, 2017.
Literary Crossroads is a series that brings together African writers on the continent and from the diaspora to discuss contemporary trends and themes in literature. Writers from outside Kenya are paired with Kenyan writers for a literary dialogue in front of an audience. The authors also respond to questions from the audience.
In February this year the Literary Crossroads featured the Nigerian writer and satirist Elnathan John and the Kenyan writer Kinyanjui Kombani. Previously writers invited include Prof. Austin Bukenya and Hilda Twongyeirwe (both from Uganda) Ifeoma Chinwuba (Nigeria), and Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa).
On Thursday, it was the time of the Ugandan writer Jennifer Makumbi and Kenyan Okwiri Oduor to take the stage at the Maendeleo House based institution in Nairobi’s Central Business District. They would be moderated by Aleya Kassam blogger and all around awesome lady. The event was hosted at the institute’s library which is smaller than their usual auditorium and it looked like it wasn’t a very good idea as it quickly filled to overflowing.
A bit of information for those reading this who might not know either of the writers. Okwiri Oduor shot to literary stardom when she won the Caine Prize in 2014 for her story My Fathers Head. She has since recently ended a writers course at the Iowa University famous as the alma mater of some of the best writers out there. She is working on her debut novel which she assures us will come very soon.
Jennifer emerged when she entered the Kwani Manuscript Prize in 2013 for her manuscript Kintu as well as the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2014 for her story Lets Tell This Story Properly. Her debut novel Kintu won the prize and has been given rave reviews by all that read it while that short story would have Jennifer to be the first one by an African to win the global prize.
The event kicked off with the writers reading from texts that they had written followed by discussions led by our moderator who was awesome. The writers gave opinions about everything under the sun from how their identity affected their writing, their writing process, how winning a prize affected them, writing from the diaspora and everything under the sun.
You would expect the biggest story around Jennifer’s novel Kintu would feature quite prominently at this event. The story which featured an “introduction” written by Aaron “The White American Man Who Knows African Literature” Bady was not taken too kindly by Ellah Allfrey who wrote an essay lambasting that decision. Everyone had an opinion and Okwiri shared hers that perhaps the name should have been on the cover of the book. Jennifer who wrote the book was circumspect about the whole thing; while she understood the concerns of the forward, the intro was more an homage of the book. What she didn’t like was the nastiness that emerged from it all.
— theMagunga Bookstore (@MagungaBooks) June 29, 2017
The event ended followed by bonding by humans and signing of books by Jennifer.